The Use of Oral-Motor Techniques to Improve Speech Production

Using oral-motor techniques to work on articulation continues to be controversial in the field of speech-language pathology. Recent research appears to indicate that use of oral motor techniques do not in fact demonstrate better outcomes in terms of speech production. However, when reviewing any research it is important to understand that the study was carried out on a small group of participants. As parents and professionals we know that no two children are alike in terms of their deficits or their strengths. Techniques and treatment methods that work for one child may prove to be ineffective for another and vice versa. It is therefore my opinion that each child must be evaluated as an individual with unique needs and abilities. Techniques that work on building lip strength in a child with poor lip seal resulting in drooling and errors in production of bilabial sounds “p,” “b,” “w,” and “m” may in fact be effective.

I believe a detailed evaluation that includes an assessment of a child’s jaw, tongue and lips: their strength, coordination and dissociation (i.e. the ability to move independently of the other) is key to determining their effect on speech production. However, I cannot emphasize how important it is to always use oral motor techniques in conjunction with direct speech production therapy. It may not result in the desired articulation changes if used in isolation.